DTM » 06 October 2003
Alesi's day, Bernd's year in dramatic DTM finale
Ekstrom only just missed out on his second DTM-victory. At the finish, the Swede only was 0.213 seconds behind Alesi and was left ruing a small delay on his first stop that led to Alesi's initial passing move back on lap eight.
“Too bad, the pit stop wasn't completely right,” mused Ekstrom. “I tried until the finish. Today, my car was ready for victory.“
“It is very close up in front, you always have to be sorted perfectly”, Ekstrom's team-boss Hans-Jurgen Abt summed up. “I am already looking forward to the 2004 season, we will be attacking all out again.”
Third eventually fell to Fassler following a decisive lap 22 on Dumbreck, who continued to hassle the Mercedes man to the finish in another gritty drive from the Scotsman that yet again earned praise from Opel boss Volker Strycek.
“It was incredibly exciting for everyone,” said the former DTM Champ turned motorsport director. “We would have liked to be on the podium, because today, Peter was among the front runners from the very beginning. He has been driving a magnificent race. But when it is so close in front, the slightest mistake makes you lose one place.
“During the season, we kept on developing and we were capable of winning during the last races. Just that is what we wanted to achieve, and right here at this great final, we have proven it once again. Congratulations to Bernd Schneider, he is a worthy champion.”
“I have been fighting hard, but it just wasn't enough,” said an exhausted Dumbreck. “Now, we will continue in 2004 where we have finished here. I am very satisfied with the season, because we have reached our goals. My goal for 2004 is quite easy: I want to stay with Opel and win the championship!”
Aiello salvaged some pride from a disappointing season with fifth place, just two seconds behind Dumbreck at the finish and seven seconds ahead of Schneider with Timo Scheider and Audi Junior driver Peter Terting claiming the final two points scoring positions.
A rash of late retirements, including Manuel Reuter and Gary Paffett, and a Karl Wendlinger assisted spin for Jeroen Bleekemolen allowed Albers to move up to 12th at the finish although 'Smokin' Jo Winkelhock's final DTM appearance ended with a whimper after just nine laps.
In the final standings Schneider claimed title number four by a margin of four points (68-64) over Albers with Fassler eleven points adrift in third with 57. Ekstrom's second place run cemented his status as top Audi driver of the year in fourth place overall thanks to nine point scoring efforts in ten races while Alesi pipped Aiello for fifth with his second win of the season. Dumbreck was comfortably the best Opel driver with 31 points in seventh position overall while Mercedes easily claimed manufacturers honours.
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